Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Japan Run with NYRR (otherwise known as the Run of Maple Syrup Jesus)

(My post race ugly face at the Japan Run 2010-06-08)

I’m not superstitious at all. I don’t put much stock in horoscopes or good luck charms or curses or even prayers. When I pray, I try my best to pray, not for a changed outcome, but instead that I am able to handle and accept whatever the outcome might be. I ask God for a change in perspective instead of a change in events.

Having said (written) that, the Japan Day Run in Central Park on Sunday was the most horrible, terrible, no good, very bad, cursed, hot, dirty, stinky, crowded run that started last Friday afternoon. You see, last Friday afternoon, as I am wont to do, I went to the New York Road Runners (NYRR) offices on the Upper East Side at Fifth Avenue and 89th Street to pick up my race bib and t-shirt. As I bound up the stairs and said hello to the kind volunteers I tripped.

Not in an “oops, that’s sort of embarrassing. Look at me! I tripped and stumbled” type of trip but a “hello stairs, this is my face and, if you don't mind, my face, instead of my arms, is going break my fall”. As I stood up I laughed it off and spouted something to assure the 534 people in the office who saw my 6 foot 6 inch ass fall face first into the stairs that I was ok. “It’s a good thing I fell today instead of race day, hahahahahaha” I said to no one in particular.

I’m nothing if not witty!

After leaving the offices I chalked my fall up to just some random incident and forgot about it. Well, I mean I forgot about it in the sense that I told everyone that would listen how bad I fell and stubbed my right big toe, one of the few toes left where the toenail is not black from running, but that I was a trooper, a runner’s runner, and I would brave the 4 whole long miles of the race on Sunday and prevail.

Fast forward to Sunday. It started perfect. There was no traffic up the West Side Highway and we arrived at Central Park West and West 100th Street 45 minutes early. Then the trouble began. I figured that since the race was at the north end of Central Park, parking would be a breeze. I figured wrong. We drove around for half-an-hour and there was no parking whatsoever. It seems that the residents of the Upper West Side don’t like to move their cars early on Sunday morning. Imagine that! As we circled and circled around I realized I had about 10 minutes before the race began.

“We could just go home. God and Jesus might not want us to go. Yeah, let’s just go home. I prayed and I don’t think God and Jesus want us to go to the race.”

Since Ric has been sick he frequently employs God and Jesus to do his heavy lifting. In this respect he is much like Sarah…oh never mind…back to the story.

With just a few minutes before the race was to start I gave up on finding street parking and parked in a garage.

“Ok, I’m going to run to the corrals. I’ll call you when I am finished. Don’t get run over by runners. Stay off the course! Are you listening?”

“Yes, go! I’ll see you later”

The NYRR volunteers were moving us along. “Two minutes to start. Run up that hill and get to your corral”

I ran up the hill, found my group and waited.

Did I mention it was humid? Because it was. My nifty Japan Day t-shirt was already soaked by the time I crossed the starting line. And it started oh-so well.

They say (whoever they are) not to run someone else’s race. What that means is, don’t get caught up in the excitement and run the tempo of those around you if their tempo is not your tempo. A race, for me especially, is a race against myself. My only goal is to beat my last race time…in theory.

As we passed the 1 mile marker I remembered something my friend Charles, also a runner, told me about running the north end of the park. It’s hilly. Like really, really hilly.

As I was running at pace with the 7min/milers and began the ascent up what was the 57th hill of the day I noted to myself to tell Charles he was right. That is, if I made it to the end. Having already sweat half my body weight I was not certain I would ever see a finish line again. The race was beginning to kick my ass.

Just about that time, there she was. She being a pedestrian of no more than 5 feet tall that decided she might attempt to cross through the race about 2 feet in front of me.

“HOLY SHIIIIIIIIT!” I screamed as she stopped directly in my path with a look that put deer-in-the-headlights on the map.

If I were not the vision of grace and elegance that I am, I would have probably run into the sorry sack of impatience. But luckily for her, I managed to swerve around and just miss her.

At mile two, Jesus was calling…audibly. I could hear him. He was calling me home.

Oh, have I mentioned that I smelled maple syrup?

“You clearly are not cut out for this race” he said in that holier than thou Jesus way that gets on my last nerve. “Just crawl on over there to that lovely patch of grass and give up.”

When I later told this to my mother she jokingly told me it was the Lord’s subtle rebuke for choosing to run the race instead of go to church (At least I think she was joking).

Instead of listening to the good Lord I soldiered on and started to walk. I never regained my breath but I did start to run again. When I finally made it to the finish line I fumbled for my phone to call Ric. My phone was soaking wet and I had trouble getting the touch screen to respond to my trembling touch. Finally I dialed.

As I expectorated the last of my lungs, Ric answered.

“Babe, I fell. I’m really cut up and bleeding. I am sitting down on a hill and there are a bunch of people around me”

Calm, Jon-Marc. Stay calm.

“Ok, I need more information than that. Where are you? What do you see? Are you by the course? Are you by the bagel and water station?” I asked in full panic mode.

“I don’t know. I am just around people. On a hill. Bleeding”

“Ok, stay on the phone with me. Just describe to me what you see”

“There is a lady…”

My phone died. My $400.00 piece of phone caca that cannot hold a charge died and I had no idea where Ric was. I only knew that he said he was bleedingon a hill somewhere in Central Park and that I was physically exhausted. This was all too familiar.

After aimlessly wandering around in circles looking for Ric, I heard his voice.

“Babe, over here” he yelled.

And then, like a parent finding their lost child in a department store, my relief turned to relief with a tinge of anger. And by tinge I mean full on white hot

“What the hell happened?”

“I was walking to the race and got caught up in all these people and someone knocked me over and I fell. Then all these people ran over to help and gave me bandages and alcohol swabs and one lady poured water all over my cuts”

That’s the thing I love about the running community (and by community I mean the runners as well as those that come to cheer on the runners). There is a spirit, an unspoken code. Every person at that race, I truly believe, wanted every other person at that race to do their very best. And when someone was hurt – a perfect stranger to everyone there but me – people gathered around him and made sure he was ok. They didn’t know he suffers from dementia and how unbelievably scared he was but I’m certain even if they did it would not have mattered. Their only concern, based on what Ric told me, was making sure Ric was ok.

“Can you go get the car and pick me up?” Ric said, still sitting on the grass.

“No, the park is closed to cars. You are going to have to walk”

With that, he stood up, leaned on me, and we began to walk west towards the garage. What should have taken 5 minutes to walk took 45 but, after stopping many times so Ric could rest, we finally made it.

Hey, I know I don’t usually ask for outcomes to be changed I prayed as I drove us home, but it would really help if you could heal him quickly. Also, I want to tell you how amazed and grateful I am for the human race at times like these. Those people that gathered around Ric and took care of him were incredible Thanks for them. Also, and this is just fair warning, if it is ever that humid again during a race I will immediately cease believing in you. Amen

Oh yeah, the other thing is, I still smell maple syrup. Pancakes anyone?

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